NB Government and farmer’s market back down on mandating vaccines for grocery shopping

Justice Centre For Constitutional Freedoms Posted On: December 17, 2021

NEW BRUNSWICK: The Justice Centre is pleased to announce that on Friday, December 17, 2021, the Government of New Brunswick revised its public health order to exclude grocery retailers from places where the option of mandatory vaccination for entry is permissible.

On December 7, 2021 the Justice Centre sent a demand letter to the Minister of Justice of New Brunswick warning that the government’s new December 4 public health Order, which allowed private businesses to deny services to Covid vaccine-free Canadians, was unconstitutional. The Order implicitly invited grocery stores to make any conditions of entry including requiring vaccination of customers as a condition to shop for food and essentials. The Justice Centre warning letter also noted that the right to food is a fundamental human right enshrined in various international instruments including Article 25 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights amongst other human rights instruments.

On December 15, the Justice Centre sent the City of Fredericton a demand letter in relation to its vaccinated-only policy at the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market demanding it be immediately reversed for its unprecedented unconstitutional and human rights violations.

These warning letters were the first step in what would have proceeded to legal action, had the government not immediately reversed what the Justice Centre views as discriminatory and unconstitutional policies.

As of today, the New Brunswick public health order has been revised. The government news release announcing this change states: “An option allowing stores that sell groceries to ask patrons 12 and over for proof of vaccination, instead of implementing distancing requirements, is being removed from the province’s mandatory order.” In the news release, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard now states that “the original intention was to give stores a choice, and that those choosing the proof-of-vaccination option would offer delivery or curbside pickup; it was never the intention for anyone to believe they could not access groceries.”

The Justice Centre is pleased to report that the Fredericton Boyce Farmer’s Market also following the province’s reversal in Order and made their own announcement today on Twitter, rescinding its mandatory vaccination policy. The market, owned by the New Brunswick Government, and leased to the City of Fredericton at a nominal rate announced a mandatory vaccination policy on December 11, 2021, stating, “proof of double vaccination (or medical exemption) will be required to shop indoors, for all visitors 12 and over.” No offer for delivery or curbside pickup was offered when this policy was announced.

On December 14, 2021, three Members of Parliament representing New Brunswick constituencies, John Williamson, Rob Moore, and Richard Bragdon, released statements condemning the New Brunswick Government’s ‘winter action plan’, which gave retailers and grocery stores permission to refuse vaccine-free Canadians.

“This Order which served to segregate citizens was a very concerning development in Canada. It would have been the first attempt by a government to deny essential services and food to Canadians who decide against receiving a Covid vaccine, as is their constitutional right,” states Andre Memauri, Justice Centre Staff Lawyer.

“Today the Government of New Brunswick and the City of Fredericton have corrected their vaccination policies in relation to grocery sales to accord with the Charter and Human Rights legislation and this is a positive step. However, there is work to be done as the revised New Brunswick Order still infringes the Charter as it relates to faith-based venues, by requiring anyone that attends religious services to be fully vaccinated with the new Covid shots for certain events. We will continue our legal work in this regard. The Government has no legal or scientific justification to tell churches and faith based groups who can be allowed to attend services and on what grounds,” adds Mr. Memauri.

“The Justice Centre will continue to ensure that vaccine-free citizens are not discriminated against by being denied essential services, such as purchasing food at markets and grocery stores. Denying a minority population in this manner is a reprehensible and unlawful act of cruelty and discrimination.”

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